How long is 7000 years ago ? Is it part of this moment , 11:02 a.m. in October . I see my fingernails caked with dirt from living this summer in a tent in the backwoods and history is facing me . Sleeping Bear Point , the place on the way to someplace else : … standing at the dunes tip now feels like I could swim there . The whole point fell into the water once . You think you know everything about something . How much could there be to know about a big pile of sand . Then you realize you don’t know anything at all . Down the coast lays Pyramid Point and in the other direction , the town of Empire . Their names of antiquity , telling , making me proud to live here . As I’ve gotten older I realize I’m certain of only one thing … Days that I can feel the world in orbit are better than days when I cannot .
Standing above the Bay , I see the northern expanse of the dunes , that languid golden pink length of sand , so much sand , looking so soft , especially when the sun sets and rises . The dunes have an abstract , cryptic beauty and the light changes everything in view . To see these dunes is to be aware of primal forces , the air , earth , fire and water create a strong emotion . Every grain of sand was once part of a rock . The winds and waters shifting over and over again evolving new formations . If everyone on earth suddenly vanished , would cats and dogs de-evolve into creatures more akin to their feral ancestors and would they be standing on a mountain stone climbing to Venus ?
I love strange beauty , not normal beauty , not popular beauty , not the kind where your friends agree with you , but just the opposite . Life is not supported by the sand – nothing grows here and if some little sprout manages too , the sand blows and smothers it . The dunes are an acquired taste , a developed love . I want to hike from the top , down to Lake Michigan in the west but knowing this distance is deceptive , that it is so much farther to the water than it looks , I want to understand the ways of these dunes that I’ve climbed since childhood .
My name is Francis . I live here now . The year is 2014 , the year of the Ebola Virus outbreak , the Syrian war and when ISIS seizes large regions across the sea . A Malaysian airplane went missing with over 200 passengers aboard , months ago and still never found . Record cold weather roared across the United States and Peter Gabriel is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . The new Apple I-phone 6 just came out , water vapor is detected on the dwarf planet Ceres , my son’s girlfriend is obsessed with ” Doctor Who ” and my brother just discovered that the social security system has had him registered as a female since his birth in 1952 and so his retirement benefits are in jeopardy .
Cat Stevens ( Yusef Islam ) is going on tour this year , the last time being in 1976 . His music captured me tight the only year I went to college , walking into a record shop , hearing ” Peace-train ” , ” Morning Has Broken ” , ” Moonshadow ” and ” Where do the Children Play ” . I was stunned then and I can hear the music drumming in my mind , a heritage of memory in its pleasure still . And what about the album cover – you know , the one with the sun , tree and the path with the Tillerman drinking tea in a fairytale of colors … the first album I ever bought . Just last week I heard him interviewed on Public Radio – ” I get the tune and then I just keep on singing the tune until the words come out from the tune . It’s kind of a hypnotic state that you reach after awhile when you keep on playing it , where words just evolve from it . So you take those words and just let them go which ever way they want . Moonshadow ? Funny , that was in Spain , I went there alone , completely alone , to get away from a few things . And I was dancing on the rocks there … Right on the rocks where the waves were , like , blowing and splashing . Really it was so fantastic . And the moon was bright , ya know , and I started dancing and singing and I sang that song and it stayed . It’s just the kind of moment that you want to find when you’re writing songs . “
I wish you could hear the sounds of my place , a place of strange language , words within the waves of a Great Lake . I wish I could take these background rhythms everywhere with me and when I opened my mouth , that is the word you would hear . Just writing this , I feel both a tremendous sadness and joy , a wanting from within , something ecstatic . I choose my words carefully about these feelings . I don’t know what this is or where it came from or just when it began . I never thought I could find so much in the passage of a distant white sailboat below the dunes . Something has changed , last night my brother ,Dave , gave me an old journal written by his dead friend and part of me wants to mark this as the moment of change , although I know that it isn’t . The change is something that has come more slowly , perhaps it even began before I fell in love that first time , or second or third . What that change means I don’t know , just like I don’t know if I’m happier or sadder than I have ever been . There is a purpose in all this although I do not know yet what it is . There is so much more that remains . For most of us our stories can be written long before we die , there are exceptions among great men in history but I am not one of them . It is a crazy world but a world that is somehow still brand new to me and now I’ve turned into a writer where I was before an artist drawing life like a silent stow-a-way . These are my new words , written words as I sit for hours in this lone coffee shop where today I spotted an older man with a spark in his eyes who slowed down to take a look at me while John Mayer works his magic singing “Gravity” thru the radio playing amidst the coffee aroma and life goes on .
Gravity is working against me
and Gravity wants to bring me down
Oh , I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away .
Gravity is working against me
And Gravity wants to bring me down
Oh , twice as much ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain like one half could
Its wanting more that’s gonna send me to my knees .
C’mon keep me where the light is
C’mon keep me where , keep me where the light is .